As part of the pre-publication blog tour, we are sharing a review for Julie Buxbaum’s newest novel, What to Say Next:
After hearing such amazing things about Tell Me Three Things being a cheery contemporary read, I was totally expecting What To Say Next to be the same. Julie Buxbaum blew me away with a deep, emotional contemporary story that explores social stigma, family relationships, and grief.
Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.
KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.
DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.
When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?
Kit Lowell is struggling to return to normal life one month after her father died in a car accident. One day during lunch, when she just can’t bring herself to pretend everything is normal, she decides to sit with David, a boy on the autism spectrum who has been socially outcast by their peers. Kit is shocked at David’s honesty at first, but quickly comes to appreciate his blunt approach to her father’s death and the fact that he doesn’t tiptoe around it. Kit continues to sit with David and they become friends, which leads to Kit opening up about her doubts surrounding her father’s death. They decide to complete the “Accident Project” to look into the math surrounding the car crash so Kit can find closure. Of course, things don’t go as planned. David’s notebook, which he uses to keep notes on his classmates, is stolen, and angry students begin to act out in response. Kit learns painful secrets about her family and struggles to cope with the new knowledge she has gained. This eventually puts strain on their relationship and Kit and David have to work together to find a new normal for themselves.
What to Say Next is a powerful glimpse into the high school experience for teens who are dealing with tough situations. Kit is still overwhelmed with grief and trying to adjust to the new world she finds herself in. David displays many tendencies of Asperger’s Syndrome and has to work hard to fit in and make a good impression on Kit. However, as they get to know each other, the relationship they form becomes a beautiful show of resilience and togetherness. Despite differences which at times seem insurmountable, the friendship that forms is an important reminder that just because someone seems different from what is considered “normal,” it doesn’t make them less worthy of relationships.
What to Say Next also explores different forms of relationship: friendships, family, and romantic. Kit and her mother are in a dark place after the accident, and some facts that come to light only make things worse for their relationship. That being said, they begin to work through things and come out on the other side. Kit also has two close friends who stand by her when she most needs it and support her the best they can, even when it’s not always exactly what Kit wants from them. Kit also has her “Uncle Jack,” who steps in when she needs it most, and David has his sister Lauren, who doles out advice as he navigates a newly formed relationship with Kit.
Teenagers can be cruel, and What to Say Next doesn’t gloss over that. At times, What to Say Next can be painful to read because raw emotion just drips off the page. Buxbaum explores how to recover from some of the lowest points one can experience in life and bounce back to a new, stronger place. The writing is engaging and readers will quickly begin to “ship” Kit and David. What to Say Next is worth checking out for its truthful look at teenage life.
What to Say Next hits shelves on July 11, 2017!